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The good old solar panels on rooftops or in a solar farm in the desert are what comes to mind when most people hear the words ‘solar power’. The reason behind it is traditional utility-scale and rooftop solar panels have dominated the solar market till today. There are now several exciting new solar panel technologies either on its way or already in the market. These promising technologies will revolutionize our impression about not just solar, but about overall energy production. Solar no longer requires acres and acres of land or roof space, nor does it need to look boring. You can find out when you continue reading.

Floating solar farms -‘floatovoltaics’

Floating solar tech
Floating solar technology (Buring. A, 2021)

Silicon panels are becoming cheaper and more efficient by the day. As per professionals and experts, if photovoltaic panels are placed on reservoirs and other water bodies, they offer even greater efficiency as well as a plenty of other advantages.

“Floatovoltaics” are photovoltaic solar technology which are being created to float on reservoirs, dams, and other water bodies.

These floating solar farms are capable of generating huge amounts of electricity without using valuable land or real estate. The installation costs of floating photovoltaic panels are also less than land-based photovoltaic panels. On the other hand, various research has depicted that the power production of floating solar technology is greater by up to 10% due to the cooling effect of water.

Besides producing clean solar power, the floating solar farms help with water management. They reduce water evaporation by limiting air circulation and blocking sunlight from the surface of the water. Consequently, they prevent noxious algae production, thus lowering water treatment costs. In addition, the water beneath keeps solar panels clean and minimizes energy waste.

The first commercial 175 kWh floating panel system was installed in California at the Far Niente winery in Napa Valley, in the year 2008.

BIPV solar technology

BIPV
Building-integrated Photovoltaics (energypedia, 2014)

As the name suggests, building-integrated photovoltaics, seamlessly blend into building architecture in the form of roofs, canopies, curtain walls, facades, and skylight systems. Unlike traditional solar PV panels, BIPV can be aesthetically appealing  to a building’s design.

The other good news is that the BIPV solar panel systems enable homeowners to save on building materials and electric power costs. By substituting BIPV for standard building materials, the additional cost of solar panel mounting systems can be cut down.

When used on the building’s facades, atrium, terrace floor, and canopies, BIPV technology provides the following benefits:

  • Increased energy efficiency
  • High thermal and sound insulation
  • Clean and free power output from the sun
  • Decreased O&M costs
  • Zero carbon footprint

When installed as building materials, the photovoltaic PV glasses act as an energy-generating device. It allows natural light inside homes and offices, similar to conventional architectural glasses.

Solar skins – solar technology

Solar skins
Modern solar skins (blueravensolar, 2020)

Solar skins are a novel PV technology which is introduced to integrate custom designs into solar panel systems. The solar skin technology is similar to the ad wraps that are displayed on bus windows.

The manufacturer of solar skins, Sistine, is testing the technology at the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory with the intension of increasing its efficiency. Solar thin-film skins maintain high efficiency due to its selective light filtration advancements. The sunlight falling on solar skins filter itself before it reaches the solar cells beneath it. Then, it simultaneously displays the custom image and provides solar energy.

The imprinted custom images embedded into solar panels, can match your grassy lawns or rooftops of your homes.

Businesses or government offices can also benefit from Solar skin panels. You can customize these to display business logos, business advertisements, a country’s flag etc.

Other benefits include:  

  • solar skins utilize rail-less racking systems,
  • they sit lower,
  • have a sleek finish,
  • hides metal components giving the panels a super cool look.
  • enables you to monitor your system performance 24/7 on your phone
  • provides you alerts in case of any issues or solar energy outages,
  • prescribes the right remedies at the right times.

However, the downside of solar skin panels is their cost, which is about 10% more than the price of traditional panels.

Solar fabric – solar technology

Solar fabric
Solar technology fabric- solar (SURKES. S, 2020)

Solar radiation is available all over the planet. We can generate our own energy, wherever required. Besides producing solar power at a fixed location, imagine the advantages of the fact that you could also do it while on the move through your own clothing.

Researchers are developing solar fabrics with an idea to including solar power in each fiber. You can embed these solar filaments into your winter coats, or any other clothing to warm you up, charge your phone, and provide energy for various other needs while you’re on the go.

There are several areas where researchers have attempted to combine solar fabric and solar panels, such as:

  • Building facades providing both shade and power
  • Awnings lightening up streetlights
  • Curtains eliminating power consumption from the grid

Solar fabricated household clothing can save on solar panel mounting and installation costs.

Solar cell manufacturing companies are also working specifically on the US Army project with an idea to create solar-powered robotic tents. With the continuous falling of solar costs, it’s no surprise to imagine a future where almost everything will run by free solar, the sun.

Photovoltaic solar technology – noise barriers (PVNB)

Highway traffic noise in the US is a huge concern for everyone. As an answer, 48 states have built nearly 3,000 miles of traffic noise barriers. People always built noise barriers with the single aim of designing cost-effective barriers that efficiently perform noise abatement functions. However, the goal of the US Department of Energy now is to merge noise abatement with sustainable power generation.

Given the widespread use of noise barriers in the US, the potential of producing solar energy from these is likely to be around 400 giga watt hours (GWh) annually. This equals the annual electricity usage of 37,000 homes.

The future of solar looks bright

Solar power was earlier generated only by means of ground-mounted or rooftop panels. But with all the advancements mentioned above, solar gets lighter, more flexible, and applicable everywhere.

Imagine this entire tech is available and you visit another city. You can buy food at a solar-powered food cart, eat it while traveling on a solar-powered highway, and charge your phone from your solar-powered overcoat. The near future looks like this!

There are actually lots of other innovative residential solar technology methods in development or currently being rolled out in 2022,  the most promising being the Perovskite solar cells, which could soon be used to create solar paint.

Read about solar – coming out is style here: https://engineerinc.io/solar-coming-out-in-style/

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